Elwha resort demolished by National Park Service

Peninsula News Network


Clallam County, WA - For the past three years, the old Elwha Resort has been quietly awaiting its inevitable destiny, with the once busy buildings gradually slumping into decay. Thursday it slipped into history.

It’s a big change from the days when the Elwha resort was one of the busiest in the Port Angeles area. Perched just off the highway, the store was a Mecca for fishermen and travelers, with a popular lunch counter and all the “fish stories” you could handle. It stayed that way well into the 1980s, but gradually time began to pass it by.

When papers were signed setting in place the eventual demolition of the Elwha River dams, the resort’s fate was sealed. The deal gave the National Park Service control of the lands surrounding Lake Aldwell, including the resort at the head of the lake.

Park officials hadn’t decided exactly what would be done with the resort, when an early morning fire destroyed the store, which was the resort’s primary building. The fire left nothing but a smoking hole in the ground. Park officials said the blaze was suspicious in origin, though they never named a suspect.

Last year, park managers analyzed the situation and decided it was best to go ahead and demolish the remaining cabins, which were in pretty bad shape.

Thursday morning, park crews moved in to carry out the assignment, with the last evidence of the landmark disappearing a pile of rubble.

The park plans to restore the site to a natural state, and will get rid of all the structures and roads and restoring natural vegetation.

So Thursday was a last chance to see the resort as it once was, away from the crunch of the demolition. From the little roads and fishing trails, to the campsites where generations of parents warned their kids to stay away from the river… there are echoes of countless memories. The venerable shelter still stands… although it can no longer protect campers from the rain as they prepare meals and clean their catch. The boat launch is nothing more than a streambed now. But the silence is still shattered by the log trucks’ jake brakes as they come down the Elwha hill; a noise that woke campers early every morning.

The serenity of this place will remain. The visible reminders will vanish.

The park service is charged with the responsibility of managing the resort, and the other lands around Lake Aldwell while the dams are being turn down over the next few years. But no firm decisions have been reached on the long term management of the area.


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